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This Week In Your Wallet: A Purchasing Pause

Jean Chatzky  |  December 4, 2018

With the holiday shopping season now in full swing — Happy Hanukkah, by the way to everyone kindling the lights — it seems consumers are chugging right along.
Estimates continue to show that the sales totals for 2018 will be record breakers. Which seems like a good enough reason to pump the breaks a bit and note that you can have holidays that are merry, happy and bright without breaking the bank. Here are three things that might help you do that.
First, consider abandoning that mobile wallet you’ve taken to and reverting to old fashioned cash or even (gasp) credit cards instead. Research conducted overseas (where mobile wallets are more popular than they are here) showed that not only do consumers spend more when they’re using a mobile wallet, they make more purchases overall. Actually having to swipe a card reduces the total financial outlay.  
Second, make this the month you actually track your spending. Kristin Wong, who writes about money for The New York Times — and notes that as someone who writes about money, she’s pretty good at it — recently did this and then wrote about the eye-opening results. Among her revelations: $20 has become the new $3 when we’re spending money on small everyday things like food and books — but that $20 is always worth a second thought. Also, spending can sometimes seem like the quick and easy way to solve a problem — like the fact that you don’t like how you look that day — yet it rarely works. And money flies through our fingers when we don’t even know it. She’d spent more than $600 on Amazon in the prior three months and had little to show for it. If you’ve never done this, give it a try.
And third, stop to consider how brand/designer sensitive you are. Sometimes, I’ll give an item a second or third look just because of the label it’s wearing. Sometimes, it even comes home with me. And I’m not the only one. Payless recently put up a fake store —  Palessi — in Los Angeles (because if you’re going to do this, you might as well do it in the Kardashian zone) then invited fashion bloggers and social media influencers to come shop the sophisticated boutique. It stocked it with it’s regular merchandise, then sat back and watched what happened. Sales. That’s what happened. One shopper actually spent $640 on a pair of boots, which represented an 1,800% markup. In the end, Payless returned the money spent and the shoppers got to keep the shoes but the company said it was a good social experiment. And it was a good reminder that rocking a pair of $20 pumps to that big holiday party, as long as we like the way they look, is like spending an evening with a dirty little secret. Saving money can be very, very sexy.


Have you heard of the FIRE movement? The acronym stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early, and it’s got a lot of folks fired up, but for different reasons. Devotees of the movement are dedicated to saving 50 percent of their annual income or more in a quest to amass 25 times their annual spending which would allow them to, in many cases, retire. Detractors say that this kind of lifestyle is basically one step above freeganism, and that they’re making the rest of us — who are only able to save 10 percent of our income (if we’re lucky) — feel bad. But as Michelle Singletary writes in this week’s Washington Post, the movement may be misunderstood. Just 35 percent of FIRE practitioners said they were motivated by quitting work and retiring early — most folks said they’re just seeking a work-life balance. Additionally, 67 percent of FIRE folks said that hitting their savings goal isn’t worth it if it means they have to live as though they’re broke. In fact, whether you go full-on FIRE or not, the movement has a lot to teach us about ways to earn a little more, spend a little less and line up both with your values. 


Finally, as Amelia McBain writes for our beauty routines come at a cost not just to our wallets — but to the environment. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it would cost about $500 million to clean the plastic pouches that many beauty products come in out of the ocean. And aside from the packaging, the ingredients in our products can cause further damage to our oceans (and our bodies) — like plastic micro-beads found in exfoliants. Some products are actually toxic and are filled with cancer-causing parabens. But before you toss all of your face washes and night creams into the trash remember: waste isn’t green either. So research new, eco-friendly products to choose next while using what you already have. For more green beauty hacks, keeping reading here.
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